Motherhood Unplugged – Am I Beautiful?

Motherhood Unplugged – Am I Beautiful?

If you were asked how to describe yourself in a few sentences, what would you say? Would you speak in kindness and affirmation? Would you say you’re beautiful?
To be honest, when I was recently asked this question, my first words weren’t particularly nourishing and that bothered me. A lot.

So, here is my answer after a couple of thinking days:
I am a child of the King and beautiful and precious in His eyes.
I am a wife and a mother but also a daughter, sister and friend.
I am sometimes anxious and often feel the weight of other people’s emotions.
I am sensitive and quirky and very spontaneous.
I am calm, love the quiet and altogether very sensitive. 

I am nowhere near perfect but am learning that perfection is a slippery slope towards failure.
I am a runner, a lover of cake and a creative soul.
I am a bearer of scars and the recipient of many years of bullying from others.

I have the heart of a gypsy, the soul of a wanderer and the spirit of a lion.
I am exactly who I was always meant to be.

A few days ago, Princess Eugenie married her long-term partner, Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.  And in a show of courage and inspiration, the Princess made a point of wearing a dress that exposed – rather than hid – a scar left over from a childhood operation.
The Queen’s granddaughter had major surgery on her back to treat a curvature of the spine at the age of 12 and in revealing her scar, she hoped it would honour those who had helped her on her journey with the condition of scoliosis. The Princess also wanted to make a point, being that  “you can change the way beauty is” and following the wedding, her bravery has indeed influenced many others to also reveal their hidden scars and embrace beautiful.

“True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face.
It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart
and a pretty soul.”

In a stereotypical sense, most little girls long to be a princess right? But a princess with a curved spine? That’s not part of the fairytale story. 
The princesses we see in the storybooks have clear, porcelain smooth skin, big shining blue eyes and long wavy hair. She is sweet and kind and often unaware of her stunning beauty, whilst she patiently waits for her handsome prince to complete her life.
But she definitely does not bear scars. Or a crooked spine.

In light of our Motherhood Unplugged series and being asked how I view myself, it also made consider how we, as mothers, view beauty in this current era?
I daily scroll through the snapshots of many, many mothers and their Instagram grids. Perfectly colour-co-ordinated squares of, well frankly, beautifully turned out women.
And whilst I SO understand that we all want to show our best features and lives, what happens to the mum that doesn’t feel attractive?
Who has just had a baby and her jelly belly and stretch marks are the reason why she doesn’t want to undress in front of her husband. Or the mum who can’t remember the last time she had a haircut or her cuticles pushed back to reveal pretty nails?
Or the depressed mum, who is so sleep-deprived and struggling with the task of keeping a little human alive that she can’t bear to face the outside world. And try to look normal.
What about those women?

Yet, I freely admit, I too struggle with the same sort of authenticity on social media. Whilst I can write about my flaws and downfalls, I don’t particularly want to post a picture of me looking less than my best.
Do I want to reveal a photo of me when I have first woken up, with my wild and knotty hair, bags under my eyes and those neck wrinkles that take a few hours to un-crease!! Heck no!

Why? Because I don’t want to be judged. There you have it. I don’t want someone (whoever you are) to look at me and go “Euch that’s not attractive!”
I don’t want to be criticised or put down or for somebody to think I am ugly.
So I/we, filter out the normal, the mundane, the things that we all struggle with, like bed hair, grumpy moods, messy homes, arguments with our partners, annoying children.
And in doing so, we filter out our true selves.

We want to be in the shot next to our adorably behaved children, with matching outfits and not a smear of snot or dirt on their colour-co-ordinated clothes. We want our hair done, smooth and shiny or cool-dude, beach-wave messy and our lips a pretty shade of seashell-salmon.

We don’t necessarily want to put up the ones of us, bleary-eyed, fed up and grouchy, feeling bloated and teary, whilst obsessively watching the clock, willing bed-time to come swiftly.

We all talk about finding our tribe, our community of peeps who support us and enrich our lives, along with our children’s. However, if our collective tribe only sees the well-turned-out mothers, the ones who have a seemingly rose-pink coloured existence, where are the rest of us hiding?

I believe Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress has made a much bigger statement than she possibly intended. I think it shouts of “Me too!”

Me too who has scars, visible and hidden.
Me too who is tired of pretending and wearing a mask.
Me too who feels inferior and self-conscious when I look at other mothers on social media.
And definitely, me too when I start to scratch at the wounds of comparison, envy and jealousy. These are unattractive emotions and not something I want to keep diving into. And that pesky little voice that whispers, “am I beautiful?”

Well, the answer is YES! A huge resounding, shout it from the rooftops, yes (to myself and you too).
Heck yes, you are beautiful and so am I!

How can we not be? We don’t just share our bodies with our partners, we go the extra mile and grow human beings. We grow bone and lungs and kidneys. Our blood sustains life and our heart beats for more than just ourselves.
We then deliver these little miracles into the world and nourish them from our bodies and our hands. We nurture and love and protect and embrace tiny lives that become big people, who go out and smash dreams and conquer the world. All because of us, mamas.

Are we beautiful? Oh my goodness, YES, we are SO beautiful! 
True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart and a pretty soul. Of being the best possible version of yourself, inside and out.
Be brave, be bold but more than anything, BE YOU. Beautiful you.

 

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Why Women Are So Complex.

looking after yourself

If a woman says “Do what you want!” 
Do not do what you want.
Stand still.
Do not blink.
Don’t even breathe.
Just play dead.

Looking after yourself

Never a truer word spoken really. Especially when said woman has raging and unstable hormones, feels fat, ugly and wants to eat a truck-load of chocolate in a dark room, whilst partaking in impulse internet buying.

I really don’t quite understand how this happens but sometimes, when I am in a certain womanly phase of the month, I will wake in the night, prepare myself a plate of scrambled eggs with fresh parsley, brush my teeth and trawl Amazon for hessian pineapple bunting, soft, squishy anti-stress peaches and fluffy white pillows.
From China.

Somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks later, I receive random boxes in the mail. Of which I have zero recollection of being actively involved in purchasing.
I mean, Amazon and Ebay finds can be so damn cheap!
This 
stuff, that someone buys at 3.24am about 48hours prior to ahem – that time of the month.

“Women are beautifully and uniquely created, not to serve men or our children or be a slave to our jobs or homes, but to make our mark on this world and shake it gently.”

Which lends itself to the point that women are deeply awe-inspiring creatures.
We can shop in our sleep, prepare food, uphold excellent hygiene practices, and support the Chinese internet market, very finely thank you.
Not-to-mention maintain our homes with the latest of decorative trends. Purely and utterly incredible.

Which is just as well really, because on some days we are golden goddesses, oozing sexuality, poise and glamor. And others pyjama-clad, scratchy, irritable, balls of confusion, with a slight whiff of halitosis breath.

Women are beautifully and uniquely created, not to serve men or our children or be a slave to our jobs or homes, but to make our mark on this world and shake it gently, as Gandhi so eloquently quoted.
Even though our minds can be like an internet browser, with at least 19 open at one time, 10 shopping carts full of wish-lists, three frozen and a distant rendition of ‘The Sound of Music’ coming from some random corner of our minds, we can keep those balls in the air for a very very long time.
All at once.

“Don’t be afraid when storms come your way.
Learn to sail your ship over the waves”.

why women are so complex 2

 

In the spirit of celebrating the awesomeness and complexity of women, I have created a quick, go-to, glance-at, pin-on-your-wall, manifesto/self-care reminder to nurture our hearts:

Why women are so complex 1

 

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Depression and Why We Love Our Blurt Boxes.

Blurt Boxes 5

Depression and
Why We Love Our Blurt Boxes.


“An empty lantern provides no light, self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly”

-Unknown-

It’s not easy to talk about depression or mental illness. Even with all of the awareness through social media and prominent public figures, openly talking about mental health, it’s still that one subject we feel uncomfortable discussing, let alone admit we are struggling with.

It’s so very much easier to speak of our physical health than what is going on unseen within our minds. A broken bone will eventually heal, a virus may take a while to recover from, even cancer, quite possibly the most dreaded disease in the world, has brilliant survival rates, is much easier to discuss than mental illness.

The World Health Organisation estimates there are more than 300 million people in the world living with depression right now. In the UK, 1 in 5 people experience anxiety and depression – with an 18% increase between 2005 and 2015.
And sadly, we’re seeing a frightening increase in rates of mental ill health in young people.

So what is it about mental health that we find so very difficult to address?
Is it because we can’t actually see with our own eyes the cause of such distress?
Is it because we simply don’t know enough about it and it makes us fearful to talk about?
Why is it so much easier to say you have the flu and need a day off, rather than you have spent the entire night awake, highly anxious, unable to sit or stand or verbalise how deeply unwell you really are?

Whilst, I am still muddling through these answers on a personal note myself, I do draw great comfort from a new Social Enterprise, called
The Blurt Foundation.
Blurt exists to make a difference to those affected by depression. Their aim is to help people understand depression and what it means for the individual. They offer support, a listening ear and advice from others who have suffered from mental illness in the past.
Their aim is to break down barriers and help people to broach this difficult subject with their close family and friends, as well as support the sufferer in the valley of depression.

Blurt Boxes 2
Tuning into The Blurt Foundation’s website is a bit like snuggling under a warm and soft duvet on a cold and miserable winter’s day. Gentle words of encouragement, easy to read information, assurance in the form of positive and affirming words, shine through each page.
Additionally, key and relatable content is sent out once a week to Blurt’s email subscribers, which are praised by their audience for making dark days feel just that little bit brighter.
Progressing towards an even deeper understanding of depression, Blurt works closely with medical practitioners, employers, schools and companies to share the message of what depression means and how those who are affected by it can be supported.
And the best part, is that their profits are ploughed back into the community they have chosen to serve: those affected by depression.

Click on Blurt’s ‘Get Support’ page and you will find charities and services who specialise in the various types of mental illness. I am particularly impressed by these links and the level of help that is available for the individual.

In short, this small but punchy and caring community, are spear-heading a pioneering movement into the understanding of depression and mental illness, like no other team in the UK.

On a personal note, our daughter, was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder late last year and through the Blurt Foundation, has begun to understand the importance of self-care and the need to educate herself on this often confusing and frightening illness.

Each month Blurt send out their BuddyBoxes, which are literally bundles of joy, comfort and happiness in a box. These boxes always seem to arrive at the perfect time each month, a little gift to oneself, with a different theme and accompanying complementary products.

Blurt Boxes 3
The latest May box, entitled ‘self-care isn’t sel-fish‘ focussed on the healing and affirming practice of building into oneself. Consisting of lovingly selected and thoughtful mini treats, all in a sweet fish-themed bundle.
Gorgeously scented ‘Gone Crabbing Essence D’Estuary Soap‘; sweet and soft ‘DOIY Fish Socks‘; divinely tasting ‘Kernow Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Spoon‘ hot chocolate treat and beautiful ‘Janelle Silver A6 Temporary Tattoos‘ (that actually work on your skin and don’t fade after one wash) serve as a reminder of self-care along with encouraging postcard prints & affirming quotes.Always packaged with great care and attention to detail, these boxes are very much anticipated each month by our daughter and indeed our whole family.

BuddyBoxes can be a lovely monthly treat for oneself or a special gift for a loved one who may be having a hard time. With various buying options to select, these boxes start at an incredibly affordable £12.00.
Blurt’s online shop has lots of other lovely treats including prints, colouring books, cards and mindfulness crafts. It is a nourishing act in itself, for the heart to wander through the pages of this lovely website. One with such passion for the individual, as well as the community.

You can check out all that The Blurt Foundation has to offer here.
Please note: I do not receive any compensation from this article and all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Blurt Boxes 4

 

 

 

 

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Recognising When Your Child Is Anxious

Recognising When Your Child Is Anxious.


I have been a parent for nearly 21 years now and throughout the many and varied seasons of child-raising, some of those years were focussed on helping some of our children through stages of anxiety.

Not that long ago, we found ourselves in a very tricky situation with our 10 year old daughter, Milly.  She became terrified of sleeping on her own at night.  She found the darkness unbearable and every single night would whip herself into such a frenzy of crying and panic, it broke our hearts.  As I write this I can feel tears welling up at the thought of her distress, night after night.

One particularly difficult night, Milly asked my husband and I, if it would be easier for her to leave us and join another family, as her tears and anxiety must be too much of a burden on us.
You can imagine how deeply affected we were by her words!  Our sweet 10 year old expressing this so tenderly, nearly completely undid us.

Then on the other side, was our son, Harry, who began first year high school and became so deeply distressed and anxious during school time, due to group bullying.  However, Harry showed his anxiety in different ways and for a long time, we were unaware of how bad things had become for him at school.

Both children experienced severe anxiety, but were poles apart in their representation of this emotion.  And even though, both children are very quiet, their anxiety was uniquely displayed, often making it hard to read as a parent.

There are key signs to look for if you suspect you have an anxious child.
Our family, have actually faced all of these and whilst this list is comprehensive, it doesn’t mean anxiety or fear can be dealt with through a textbook strategy.  All children are so different and we know that what works for one, may definitely not work for the other.


1.  Feeling unwell to the point of wanting to vomit.

This is actually a very common complaint of children who are experiencing anxiety.  The reason for the sickness, is because the body slows down so that anything that isn’t absolutely essential will be conserved for energy later.  Think the flight and fight scenario (a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival).  Blood flow is directed from the organs to the brain and digestion slows.  This can feel like butterflies or nausea.  It is a very normal part of anxiety and completely safe but also completely awful to experience.

2.  Suppression of appetite.

If you notice your child is finding eating difficult, this may be an early warning sign that your little one is suffering from anxiety.  While the reasons have not been proven completely, it is thought to be a combination of a variety of factors which contribute to loss of appetite.  Some of these include the amount of stomach acid produced when anxious, can actually make the individual feel fuller for longer.

According to Calm Clinic, serotonin is also a key element to loss of appetite.  This neurotransmitter affects how full someone feels, as well as how anxious they are. If the amount of serotonin is abnormal, anxiety levels and appetite will also be abnormal.

In my experience, it isn’t wise to force your child to eat when they are in the throes of an anxious moment.  You may find it doesn’t stay where it should!

3. Worrying over seemingly minor things that shouldn’t factor at all.

Your child may begin to obsessively worrying about very small things.

For us, in Milly’s case, it was the fact that she didn’t want to be awake on her own when we all went to bed.  However, considering she was put to bed a minimum of three hours earlier than my husband and I would retire, it appeared to be a small and insignificant worry.  Except for her, it was a huge deal and meant she was unable to naturally fall to sleep at her usual time.

We dealt with this by assuring her we would check in on her every 30 minutes until she eventually fell asleep.  These small actions were a comfort to her and she was able to relax, knowing that we would be watching over her until she dropped off to sleep.

Other parents report that their child would suddenly begin to worry about things that they usually loved to do, such as playing a certain sport or going to a friend’s house.  Remember that these situations alone often aren’t the cause of the anxiety, it is the anxiety itself that manifests into the situation.


4. Not wanting to go to school.

Not wanting to go to school is a very common trait in children and anxiety isn’t always the reason behind it.  Your child may generally just take a bit longer to adapt to the school environment, so I wouldn’t automatically assume it is because your little one is anxious.  However, if your child has been enjoying school, socialising well and coming home happy in the past – and all of that seems to change overnight, it could be due to anxiety.

Talk to your child’s teacher and/or the mother’s of your child’s peers.  They may be able to shed light on the situation.  Maybe an incident occured in the playground that you were unaware of, and this has had an affect on your child.

And of course, talk to your little one.  We have found it beneficial to not directly ask our children what is concerning them because often they are unable to vocalise the problem.  Instead we have spent quality one-to-one time with our kids, engaging in the things that they enjoy, such as bike riding or swimming at the beach.  It was during those moments that our children relaxed and conversation flowed to the point of finding out what it was that was bothering them.

Quality time is often the key to listening to your child’s heart.  It gives you both space in a calm environment to connect.  We have found this to be the best course of action when our children are struggling.


5. Being extra clingy to mum or dad.

If you find your child is suddenly insecure about leaving you, again it doesn’t necessarily mean anxiety is the problem.
There are so many other factors that are very normal and common in children, such as being over-tired, over-stimulated or simply genuinely missing mum and dad, which is not a negative emotion but a sign that you have a fantastic home life!!
However, if the separation time continues to be traumatic (for both parent and child), it may be a sign of anxiety.

According to Psych4Schools, “about 4 per cent of primary school age children experience excessive separation anxiety when separated from the parent or primary care giver.  These children persistently worry about being forgotten, or the parent being harmed or not returning.

That being said, separation anxiety is part of normal childhood development.  It begins around six months of age and typically ends by the time children begin kindergarten or preschool.  A healthy level of separation anxiety indicates the development of a close bond and attachment to parents.

The warning sign is really when your child has in the past, been happy to leave you, and that suddenly changes.  Then it is time to look into what has changed in your child’s life to contribute to those emotions.

6. Wetting the bed when your child has been consistently dry at night.

This is a common complaint of parents whose child has easily been dry for years sometimes, and then suddenly wets the bed every night for no apparent reason.  Wetting the bed when sleeping has been linked to emotional problems and the toll they take on the body.  Stress can interfere with the body’s normal sleep patterns and an increase in restlessness can cause an increase in metabolism, which in turn multiplies the production of urine while sleeping.

The good news is that bed wetting is normally a short-term problem and as soon as the cause of the anxiety is discovered and passes, so does the bed-wetting.  In essence, be patient as a parent, because like all of the other symptoms above, the problem isn’t the bed-wetting in itself, rather the stress behind it.

7. Crying at the drop of a hat.

Small children will cry to express their emotions, as it is a release for stress or emotional energy.  It can serve as a communication tool to share emotions or seek comfort, as they are not able to cognitively show their parents any other way to indicate hunger, tiredness etc.

In older children, who do have the ability to convey their feelings, sudden and prolonged crying may be an indicator of stress.  If your child is crying a lot, as a parent there are a few things you can do sensitively to tackle the problem.
An article in The Star, explains it this way:

  • Talk about emotions when things are calm, such as spending quality time with your child, as described above.
    Or another option, as detailed in The Star, is instead of discussing it in the middle of a personal episode, using characters in books or movies to connect to your child’s experiences has proved successful.
    “Parents can have these conversations with kids from pre-school through high school,” she said. “Remind your child too of times they have handled difficult situations well, or times when strong emotions had been overcome.”
  • Acknowledge that tears are part of being human. “Many children have been damaged by adults who unwittingly communicate things like ‘big boys don’t cry,’ or ‘it’s never right to shed a tear,’” Let kids know that crying is a natural outcome of pain, sadness, disappointment, fear, frustration, anger and even joy.

8. Withdrawing from friends and family.

Firstly, look at your child’s personality.  Is he/she a naturally quiet person?  Your little one may be growing into themselves and find that they prefer small groups of children to play with instead of large, noisy ones.  This isn’t a sign of anxiety but a positive outcome that your child is finding out what works for them in social situations.

On the other hand, if you have an outgoing and bubbly little one, who is overnight very withdrawn and anxious, there is probably something going on that needs to be investigated.  And remember, it doesn’t have to be a big thing.  Often very small occurrences in children’s lives, create big ripples in their hearts.  It could be that their seating arrangement at school has been altered and they are not sitting with people they know well.  Or, in our case, with one of our boys, it was the arrival of a relief teacher, instead of his normal one, that caused deep distress.  Once you find out what is the cause, you can make steps to deal with it.


So how do you combat these anxiety flare-ups and what’s the good news about all of this?

First of all, the good news is that it will pass.

Worrying is a normal and natural human response, so as a parent or care-giver, don’t rush in to sort out the problem straight away.  Take the time to observe your child, their routine, their interactions in the play-ground, what they speak of.  Oftentimes, you will see the source of the problem straight away through simply watching them.

Anxiety is simply another emotion that your child will need to learn how to process.  Look at it from a positive viewpoint and not the negative way it may be affecting them.  Give your child the tools to use when anxious and they will be set-up for life!  If only as little ones, we were all taught how to deal with anxious thoughts!  I think the world would be a much calmer place.

And lastly, be patient.  This one I admit, I found difficult with Milly, as from our perspective, she took a long time to work through her night-time fears.  Often it was a case of one step forward and three back.  However, when she finally understood that there was nothing to be concerned about, the strength of her conviction was outstanding.  And the experience she has gained from that space enables her to deal with anxiety much better in the present.

As parents, we are constantly training our kid’s hearts and anxiety is just another way of showing them how to journey through this emotion.  If you look at it from that perspective, it isn’t the beast it always appears to be in the beginning!

 

 

 

 

 

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Miscarriage – When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops – Part Two

miscarriage pt 2

Guest Post – Emily O’Malley
Miscarriage – When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops – Part Two – Angel Babies


Angel Babies

Dear sweet reader,

When my soul sister Catherine asked how I would feel if she wrote a blog post about miscarriage and if I would like to add my story, I jumped at the opportunity.  Yet now as I sit here at 12:45am, having a glass of milk after re-settling my eldest, my story suddenly feels overwhelming.  You see I should be unable to balance my laptop as I do right now, as I should have a 7 month baby bump.  But alas, all I have is post-baby belly.

My story is a common one.  According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage – most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant.  About 15-25% of recognised pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. Doctors will quite happily tell you this as they go about the seemingly routine process of telling you that you are pregnant no more.
Some doctors may even refer to it as a ‘natural abortion.’   The amount of times when doctors have asked me how many abortions I have had, just astounds me.  Somewhere along the road these medical practitioners have lost compassion for women in their care. 


My most recent miscarriage was in November 2017.
We had finished our family and had all birth control methods in place.  I just happened to be in the 0.3% of women who fell pregnant on our particular birth control.  As you can imagine it was a H U G E shock to my husband and myself.  But we started to get our heads around it after a couple of days.  We talked logistics of where we would place this baby in our home, we laughed about the fact that we had just finished selling the last of the baby clothes and equipment, and we marvelled at the fact I fell pregnant, despite all birth control measures being in place.

But then the moment came….. it was a moment that had happened three times prior.  I wasn’t shocked, I took a deep breath…. And I flushed that blood soaked piece of toilet paper away.  I called my husband to come home from work so I could go to the hospital.  I felt calm…yet sick.  I got in the car and drove to the Emergency Department, calling a friend along the way, who insisted on coming and being with me, despite my claims that I was “fine” (and I am ever so grateful she did come!)

Once at the ED, I sat for several hours waiting to be processed and seen by the doctor.  And the bleeding slowed, thus my hope started to grow again.  However, when the doctor came and told me my HCG levels (pregnancy hormone) was not doubling as it should and he believed I was having a miscarriage, it felt all too real and very familiar.  Through tightly held lips and watery eyes, I said thank you and simply walked out of the room.

I held my game face on for a little bit…but then it started to crack.  And I sobbed.  Over the coming days and weeks I got so angry at God for allowing this to happen to me.  A baby we had never planned for, but loved SO deeply after such a short period of time, had been ripped away from us.  I think the worst part was having to continue on with life like everything was normal….but life wasn’t normal…and that baby will forever be on my mind and in my heart.

You see I’ve had four miscarriages.  Three of them were prior to having my eldest and then this last, most recent one.  My husband and I have been blessed with two beautiful earth babies.  The youngest one who is soon to turn five!  But my heart can’t help but long for our angel babies as well.  I once read a book about asking God to reveal the gender of your child, so that you can name them.
My husband and I did this and so we have Noah, Jesse, Lucy and most recently Rose, in heaven.


It has amazed me how many other women say they’ve had a miscarriage, when I start sharing my story with them.  Society tells us to keep quiet about miscarriage and has made it out to be an unspoken topic, but the more we talk and share, the more we can journey together and get rid of this stigma surrounding miscarriage.

I’m sad to say not a day goes by that I don’t think about my angel babies.
At times sweet reader, you won’t even realise you are thinking about your loss, until it hits you right in the face and you feel overwhelmed with grief and sorrow.  Or you may feel you’re ok, but then you see someone with a baby bump that would have been the same size as yours and it hits you.  All over again.

My message is simply this … mama you are not alone.  Let us band together as mothers…as women….and share our stories of joy and hope, as well as those of sorrow and pain.  We crave community and most of us are well aware of the concept ‘it takes a village to raise a family’ – so let us actually do that.  The conversations may feel difficult to initially start, but from a mama that’s been there….please go there.  Ask me how I feel, ask what you can pray about for me, refer to my angel babies by name.
And most of all….please love on me.

Because even though we might say we don’t blame ourselves for having a miscarriage.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

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Miscarriage – When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops – Part One

miscarriage pt 1

When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops
Part One

On behalf of all the mother’s who have been through the trauma
of miscarriage and have angel babies in heaven.
This is their story.

We all know the fear.
Every-time we go to the toilet, we pray that there won’t be a blood stain on the paper.  We pray like mad it will be clear.  And we wait and wait, until we can’t wait any longer.

We wake, early, its 5am and still pitch dark outside. But morning urine is stronger and maybe, just maybe there will be two lines.
Our legs shake, heck our hands shake and we pee on our fingers, as well as the stick.  We are so nervous and worry we haven’t done it correctly.  Will the test be a waste?
We tell ourselves not to worry.  There is a box of pregnancy sticks waiting for just this moment.  If this doesn’t work, we will try a fresh one.

Then we sit and wait.  We set the timer and tell ourselves not to look until the buzzer has gone off.  But impatience sets in and we take a peek.
We squint and check the picture on the box.  Could this be true?  Two lines?
There are two red lines!!!!  We are pregnant!!!!
We shriek and run into the bedroom, jumping on our husband’s sleeping form.
It has worked!  We made a baby.  We are having a baby!!

We try to hide the euphoric feelings that are buzzing around our body.  Calm down we say.  Can’t be good for the baby.
The baby!  There is a baby in there.
We place our hand over our stomach and shake our head.  What a miracle.  How we want to protect this tiny new life so very much.

Two weeks pass, the doctor has confirmed the pregnancy and done the bloods.  The HCG levels (pregnancy hormones) are a little lower than he would ideally like, but don’t lose heart, he says.


We go to work or look after other children, have coffee with friends, care for our families, all the while thinking and praying for our little bean to be safe.
We continually check for positive signs.  Are our breasts tender?  Has morning sickness kicked in?  We hope morning sickness will begin soon – a sign of strong hormones.  Do we have any cravings?
We can’t be sure.

Then one night a few weeks later, when we drag ourselves to the toilet for the hundredth time, we see it.
Blood.
Bright red blood on our knickers.  And a whole lot of blood on the toilet paper.
In that instant our heart drops, right down to our feet.
We feel sick, we shake, we keep saying, “no, no, no, no, not again, please not again”.

We crawl back into bed, trying to ignore the ache in our pelvic area that rises to a painful crescendo, dipping and diving and taunting us within our bodies, of which we have no control.
We tell ourselves that if we can sleep, the blood may be gone by morning.  It could just be break-through bleeding.  It’s common.  It happens – heck some women bleed the whole way through their pregnancy.
We start to Google ‘bleeding when pregnant’ and choose to read only the positive outcomes.
This for now is enough. There is still hope.

We call work and tell them we can’t make it in, we organise a sitter for the kids, we don’t tell a soul or we tell everyone and ask them to pray.  For the life of our child.  The child that we love with an everlasting fierceness that pierces our soul.  We want this baby so very much.
We have waited for this baby for such a long time.

We put off going to the toilet and the potential find of fresh blood.  We clench our legs together, willing that little seed to hang in there.
“Mummy is here. You are not alone little love.  You are so loved already.  So precious”.
We say this over and over like a chant.
We will all of our strength onto the baby.  Our hands don’t stop caressing our still-flat stomach.
“Please be ok baby.  Please be ok baby.  Please be ok baby”.
Over and over and over again.

Our name is called and we walk slowly into the radiographer’s dark room.  We lay down onto the crisp white paper, lining  the skinny bed with the squeaky rubber mattress.  We stare at the mattress.  Always the same colour.  Dark blue, like the ocean deep, matching the frightened blackness of our souls.

The nurse is so lovely and speaks very quietly and slowly.  We are asked to confirm the reason for the visit.
Yes it is bleeding we are experiencing.  Our voice is raspy and strained.  Our throats ache with the pressure of holding back the wall of emotions that threaten to explode.  Everywhere.
All over this tiny cubicle space and all over the people inhabiting it.  The dark corners of the room appear to sneer and beckon to us, a reminder that in a few short minutes, our whole world will shatter, all over again, just like before.


Again, very gently, we are told, this could be the start of our beloved baby miscarrying.  Our chin wobbles and our eyes fill with hot tears ready to spill any minute.
“Are we having any pain down below”?  Again, a nod, ever so slightly, “yes, yes we are”.
“Let’s have a little look at you and baby” she whispers.
The jelly will be cold we are told.
The screen is turned away from us.

There is silence.
The nurse’s face gives nothing away.  One minute, two minutes pass.
We don’t hear a thump, thump, thumpity-thump of a heartbeat. We think we may be sick.

Then our little bellies are wiped clean and we are asked to sit up when we are ready.
And it comes, the words we have been dreading ever since we fell pregnant,
“I am terribly sorry but it appears your baby has no heartbeat and the pregnancy is not viable.  The symptoms you are experiencing are consistent with a miscarriage”.
There are more words of condolence but we don’t hear them in the fog of grief, shock and overwhelming sadness.

The dam bursts and we sob and sob. Between gulps we manage to ask if it was anything we did wrong.
“Could it have been the sushi consumed whilst unaware of the pregnancy?  Or the glass of wine a few weeks ago”?

But her kind eyes says it all.
As many as 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
There is nothing that has made this happen.  It is an act of nature that baby just wasn’t ready for this world.
Empty words which feel so painful to hear.

Our bleak minds compute the fact that we could neither protect our baby or sustain life.  We are powerless in a way.
And that is the hardest pill to swallow.  This being outside of our control.  We feel so very broken.
But how we want this child!!!  So very much and it seems so unfair all at the same time.

This story literally describes millions and millions of women all over the world in this exact situation.  Miscarriage has been described as the silent grief.

These precious women warriors are unable to ever meet their children, the ones that were formed in their womb and grew as much as they possibly could.  And worst still, oftentimes there isn’t a solid reason as to why the miscarriage occurred.
It is an ending of confusion and grief, which is tragically all too common.
Empty comfort for those, whose pregnancies never have the opportunity to continue.

 

Here are a few things that can help a grieving mummy friend or yourself:

-1  Stop and acknowledge the existence of your child.

You have been a mother since your baby was conceived and the loss of your little one doesn’t make you any less of a mother.  It makes you a mother who grieves your child.  Have a thanksgiving service with close family.  Say a prayer, make a plaque and name your baby.  Say goodbye in a way that acknowledges life.

-2  Share with your trusted tribe that you are hurting. 

These need to be women you can cry with, who will sit with you whilst you talk (or not), ones who can hold you during your most difficult stages.
Part of the healing lies in fully comprehending the loss.

-3  Try not to alienate your partner because you were the one it happened to.

You are both parents and the loss is the same for mum and dad.  Even though your partner may be grieving in a different way than you, he is still grieving.  Give each other a double portion of grace and kindness and journey this painful path together.

-4  Take all the time you need to recover.

Don’t rush yourself back to normal.  If you need a period of time to reflect and heal, take it.  Believe me, you will be a much healthier and stronger person if you do give yourself some grace to work through the trauma of losing your child.
Seek professional help if you are struggling to let go.

-5  Take care of yourself.

Don’t allow grief to swallow you whole because it is so vile and will do so if you don’t try and build back into yourself.   Look after yourself with good food, have long soothing baths, read feel-good books, take walks outside, buy yourself a new outfit or some great shoes. Whatever it is that feeds back into your heart – go do it.  And do it often.  It will make an enormous difference to your healthy recovery.

-6  Lastly, expect for something to trigger the hurt and grief all over again.

It could be something quite innocent said to you by someone in passing, which hits right at the heart of your sorrow all over again.
Ride with it and tell someone what has happened.  Talk about it and before you know it, you will be back on your feet again.  You will find that these lows won’t occur quite so much and you can look back and recognise how far you have come in your grief and journey loss.

And finally, don’t lose hope because hope anchors the soul to keep believing for the one thing that you desire.  And absolutely, don’t give up.  Not on your body, nor your future little love.

‘Hope can feel a bit like a gentle breeze that ruffles your hair.
It is not always loud or courageous, swirling madly about your feet.

It is often swinging your legs out of bed in the morning and starting your day,
despite feeling so very sad and really quite unable.

Hope is whispering, “yes”, when you want to scream, “no”.
Hope is believing that the gentle breeze will be there tomorrow
and acknowledging its presence beside you.

And one day, when the sun shines warm on your face and you smile more than cry,
and that breeze caresses your face once again,
you will realise how far you have come in this difficult and beautiful thing we call life.

Hope is trusting all over again that life will begin and flourish once more’.
-C Irwin-©

 

 

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Are you Stuck in the Sand?

Sitting in the Sand.


I found out this week that elephants like to throw sand over themselves after cooling down in the water. The sand protects them from parasites and also keeps the sun from burning their skin. When the little calves are sleeping, the adult elephants stand over their form to shield them from the harsh rays.

I feel a bit like an elephant lately. Not in size, but certainly in the area where I feel stuck in one place.
It’s frustrating, as I want to move forward into a new season but feel there is still growth to be accomplished in the sand.

The thing is, sand is uncomfortable. I can’t imagine how itchy those elephants feel after a soothing, cool wash to then be coated in gritty, scratchy dirt.

Sand is a bit like one of those friends who overstay their welcome at your house. It hangs around a lot and you find it everywhere. Under your toenails, in your armpits, up your nose. And whilst over-stayers don’t become stuck in one’s armpit, they can get up your nose and irritate you!

So here I am. Sitting in the dirt and wondering when the uncomfortable phase will end. It’s my intuition, that I will be here for a while.

The amazing thing about dirt, is that it is literally teaming with life. To look at it, it’s dry and dusty but the fact is that 20,000 pounds of living matter can be found within the top six inches of soil. And one tiny tablespoon has more organisms than there are people on earth.

In case you missed that – there is life in dirt.
Abundantly so.

And whilst I’m not enjoying digging my feet into the dirt, I can appreciate the life beneath me.
The perfect balance of nourishing goodness that naturally feeds and grows so much life in earth we can take for granted.

So – A Few Things I Have Learnt From Sand Sitting:

-1 Don’t be tempted to wash the sand off too soon.
Believe me, I’ve tried and it just means I am sand-free for a whole five or so minutes, and then right back in the middle of that dirty soil.
In other words, whatever is sticking to you in the sand, will stay stuck until you have dealt with it.

-2 Look at your sand-experience as a blessing – of sorts.
This is a hard one and I am by no means, an expert here.
What I do know though, it that there is a reason for being in the space you are in.
Yes, it’s not fair if you are there because of the actions of other people.
If your partner has called time-out or your children don’t want to listen or talk to you anymore, that can feel like a tonne of unjustified bricks have just been thrown your way. It seems really unfair and unwarranted and believe me, I totally understand those emotions.
As much as it may feel outside of your control, there is always, always an element of power that you can own.
Whether it is in time, understanding that you may have contributed to other people’s actions or you want to change how your future is shaped, take this time to deeply look within and discern what can be learnt from this space.
This also might mean admitting you have played a part and contributed to the situation.  I told you it was a difficult one.

-3 Try not to put a time-limit on dirt sitting.
If you are anything like me, I am impatient. I find it hard to sit still without jiggling my legs or wiggling my toes, so sand sitting can be torture!
I also like to plan, so telling myself that this period will last for a certain amount of days or weeks (I don’t even go there for months and years!) – helps me.
It also hinders my healing.
The reason is, because I put too much pressure on myself to recover and move forward and then when I don’t, I feel like a failure and very guilty at not being able to handle it.
Basically, see point one, and don’t try and force yourself to move on.
It just doesn’t work in the long-term.

-4 Don’t be embarrassed about the dirt.
Nobody wants to admit that they aren’t in a good place.
In this age of perfection, particularly within social media circles, we all want to show our sunny, happy sides, like the rest of the world is doing or striving to do.
However, we all know this isn’t real life.
Everybody, no matter who they are and how much money they have or don’t have, will go through dirt experiences.
Being honest and sometimes even vulnerable, can not only help your journey but also assist others who are facing similar trials.

It has often been said, that difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.
My dirt-digging experience has shown me, that although the soil is grey and ugly, it holds hidden treasures of nourishing goodness that I would be very wise to not ignore.

So, I am going to stay here for a while and dig my toes in a little deeper, whilst spending some time with The Gardener who I suspect has a lot to tell me.

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When You Can’t Stay.

Baby Turtle You Must Go.



Hey there little baby turtle. Look’s like you have quite the journey ahead of you.
I know the path before you looks scary. So many bumps and turns, as far as you can see.

And you are so little!
It doesn’t seem fair to struggle out of your warm nest, buffeted by the security of your siblings and the earth that is your home. Your haven.

I know the future is a scary unknown.
But it is most impossible for you to consider staying.
You can’t remain, yet leaving is utterly terrifying.

What if you don’t make it, you think?
What if you are swooped upon by those huge creatures that fly above you? Their fierce talon’s and black eyes, piercing your newly born form?

I know you are frightened – but the thing is – you can’t stay here.
You need moving tides and challenging waves, currents that will push you on new sea adventures.
There are others who are a part of your story, who you are yet to meet. Who will colour and enrich your journey in ways you don’t understand right now.
But you will.

Your mama has already returned to her watery home, little one.
She had to go. It was her time. She is free now and waiting for you to take that first tentative step.

So, look for the cues little one. The signposts that will guide you. They are here to be found.
The slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, the natural light of the ocean horizon.

You really do have to do this all on your own.
The deep scary ocean that sits before you – is also going to keep you alive.
It’s waiting just for you.

You only know this tiny portion of life now – but – oh there is so much else!
The joy of reaching your destination, the lure, the promise and the hope.
It is enough little one. Enough for you to want to try. To make that leap from your nest to forever home.
For when you do reach the sea, you will swim. Instinctively you will know how.
And swim you must!

Away from the dangerous near shore-waters and those predators that seek to destroy you.

Swim to the sweet place little one, and lose yourself in those hidden crevices.
The secret homes that are ready, waiting just for you.
Beyond the horizon that you stare at in awe each day.

Your new home. It’s there. You just have to find it.
And summon all of that courage inside you – to make that first step.
Big deep breath – and – GO!

 

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The Mummy Wars.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 6

The Mummy Wars.

The Mummy Wars, started for me, when our first child was born nearly 21 years ago.
I felt the pressure, almost instantly to keep up.
Within the Mother’s Groups that I reluctantly dragged myself along to, as strongly advised by my health nurse.
Because, “it was good for me to get out of the house and meet other mummies”.

holding arrows mummy wars blog 1
I found myself saturated in conversations of whose baby was on a schedule and whose was sleeping through the night.
How many wet nappies so and so had each day and what the normal colour of breastfed infant’s poo looked like.
Mine just cried a whole lot. Period.

And from that point on – the pressure never stopped. In fact, it increased. Along the lines of –

‘My Jonnie is sitting up without support and you should see how eager he is to crawl!! He is only three months!’

‘My Susie toilet-trained herself. Overnight – I just sat and watched in utter amazement’

‘Well, of course, my Peter is very advanced for a child his age. He can already count to 100 and given half a chance would be reading novels – but really thick ones. Except I can’t find any that are appropriate material for his age, so he is stuck with simple board books. And they are soooooo boring for him’

‘Natalie eats absolutely everything on her plate and especially loves vegetables! I just can’t give her enough. She devours it all’

‘Well, our Stuart, just last night pointed to his bedroom and actually asked me to put him to bed because he loves sleep SO MUCH’

And on and on and on….

I kid you not – these actual conversations (changing the names) are happening all over the western world. Right now.

I quickly learnt after my first, that childhood is not a race.
It’s a slow and individual amble.
Cherishing your child’s unique traits and quirks and definitely not comparing them to others.

holdingarrows blog mummy warsI am not bothered anymore if child x/y/z is reading before mine or can count to one thousand.
I want my children’s lives to be tailor-made to accommodate them.
To learn and develop at a pace that is perfect for them.
And to definitely know that earlier doesn’t mean better.

In fact, a new study entitled, The Gift of Time, School Starting Age and Mental Health, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school.

Some little ones are ready for school at an early age, but a lot aren’t.
Our twins were only 4 when they began to attend full-time school and only weeks prior to them starting, were still having day-time naps. They just weren’t ready and it showed through their behaviour and also their utter exhaustion at the end of the day.
It felt wrong and I wished I had been strong enough to take them out of school, earlier than I did, rather than waiting until midway throughout their first year of school.
I was afraid though. Of being judged by other mothers, worried that the playground mummy wars would start, pointedly telling me what a mistake it was and goodness me, how would my children socialise or even learn at home? Things like that.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 2We all want what is best for our children – that goes without saying.
For some, it’s early school, others it’s later.
Many will go to a public school and others, like ours, will be home schooled.
But whichever way you choose to educate your child, remember that their life isn’t a race to get through childhood as quickly as possible.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 3
One’s childhood can be an incredibly magical time, where imagination is fed through moments of sitting quietly and actually being bored!
Great riches are discovered when children have the time and space to think and just ‘be’.
Forts are built, stories are written of faraway lands and mystical creatures, daisy chains are inter-twined by little hands, whilst lying on the warm grass in the sunshine.
Mud pies are baked in outdoor kitchens and many, many hours are spent outside exploring the beauty and mystery that is nature.
Children create, plan and learn through play whilst slowing down enough to appreciate it all.

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The greatest compliment for me, will be to have my children reflect on their childhood as adults and want to emanate the same for their offspring.
Rich memories of happiness and freedom amongst days of all sorts of adventures.
Without the constraints of an adult, behind them, pushing and urging them forward in every extra-curricular activity under the sun, just so they can keep up with their peers.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 5I think having it all, might also include resting.
A lot. In abundance.
Every single freeing day.
And I want to be fully present to enjoy it, right alongside them and as far away from The Mummy Wars as I can possibly get.

 

 

 

 

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The Two Sides of a Woman’s Heart – Lion and a Lamb.

The Two Sides of a Woman’s Heart – Lion and Lamb.


I read a wonderful excerpt from the Henri Nouwen Society today. It says, in a condensed version, that there is within us a Lion and a Lamb
Spiritual maturity is to let The Lamb and The Lion lie down together.
Your Lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self.
But there is another side – in the fearful, vulnerable Lamb. This is the part that needs affection, support, affirmation and nurturing.
 
The fine line is enabling a balance of both.
When you heed only your Lion, you will find yourself overextended and exhausted.

When you take notice only of your Lamb, you will easily become a victim of your need for other people’s attention.

The art of spiritual living is to fully claim both your Lion and your Lamb.

Then you can act assertively without denying your own needs. And you can also ask for affection and care without betraying your talent to offer leadership and be in control.
I have thought a lot about The Lion within me over the past few months.
For many of my formative years, I was a Lamb. Bullied at school which led to all sorts of insecurities. Then entering the modelling world at 15, which in many ways, fed those feelings of being small and unworthy, amongst a very material world.
However, something quite dramatic happened to me when I became a mother. At the very sniff of danger, I discovered a roaring Lion surfaced within the depths of my soul.
Where was this fierce beast when I hid in the girl’s toilets at school – not wanting to face the gang who threatened to dunny flush me?
Why did my Lion heart not roar when it was only me to stand up for?
But that creature was there all along.
Hidden between my beating heart of fear, jumping around my rib cage like a wild animal.
It was only when I had offspring of my own that I allowed The Lion’s teeth to be bared. It leapt out of my chest and threatened to tear the perceived enemy – limb from limb.
Because I knew what it was like to feel fear and smell danger. I knew what it felt like to be cornered and sneered at. And the very thought of my children facing that – alone – was too much for my mother’s heart to bear.
And yet again, when our family have faced such disappointment and despair these past few months, I have been aware of the Lion’s mane flash before me, leaping directly from my heart and in the way of danger.
It has quite simply been my protector and gone before my every move, staking out any perceived threats and lurking in the shadows, just in case another arrow is fired in our direction. Lest anyone fall.
My Lion has my back.
He is my protector and saviour.

Like the great Aslan, in ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ -an explicitly Christian fantasy story, with an explicitly Christ-like hero at the centre of it.
Except that here, Christ is represented by a giant talking lion with a wild, dangerous edge.
Aslan isn’t safe, just like a wild lion. But he’s good.
 
And whilst I am grateful for the wild Lion within, I am all too aware that lions are wild beasts and can maim and hurt others. I want to protect but certainly not hurt.
I definitely want a balance of The Lamb, who is the sweet centre of my mother’s heart – the affection, nurture, support and wholly affirming part of me, that if I am honest, is a lot nicer and definitely more gentler.
The Lamb is the true essence of who I am.
The Lion enables me to take bold steps forward in situations that scare me.
I think, I definitely need both in my life.
But I want to acknowledge the danger of The Lion and usher The Lamb into the central part of my soul.
And the wisdom to acknowledge when one may be more dominant than the other.
I want my courage to not always roar and instead, be at peace in the knowledge of the very presence of The Lion within me.
It is my hope that this empowers The Lamb to gently whisper to me, at the end of the day, and say, “let’s try again tomorrow because today – you are enough already”. 
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